“Vatican Announces Major Summit On Climate Change” – ThinkProgress, 16 April 2015

Pope Francis has made climate change one of the cornerstones of his papacy, recently hosting a climate change summit at the Vatican, which he hopes will bridge the gap between climate change and religion.

The conference, called “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity. The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development,” was held on April 28 and featured prominent leaders, like the Director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Jeffrey Sachs, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who gave the opening speech.

Pope Francis hopes that his followers — and followers of other religions — will see the connection between their faith, environmental conservation, and the future of people. The pope’s upcoming encyclical, to be published in either June or July, will focus on the environment.

During Francis’ inauguration in 2013, he gave a moving speech that fixated on climate change, even calling abuse of the environment a sin. The following year, in 2014, he hosted a five-day conference that targeted sustainability, which brought microbiologists, economists, legal scholars, and various scientific experts to the Vatican to discuss our worsening climate.

April’s summit at the Vatican also hit close to home for Americans. As we all know, many conservatives and members of the GOP have rejected the concept of climate change and have found fault with Francis for being pro-green. Francis is slated to talk to Congress this coming September, and it’s certainly likely that he’ll bring up environmental conservation.

According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, 56 percent, or 169 members, of our current Congress are skeptical of the science backing climate change. Moreover, thirty-five of those 169 members recognize themselves as Catholic. It will be compelling to see if these Congress members’ faith — and the pope’s influence — can sway any of the Congressmen and women.

However, in the final analysis, it is not religion but economic — supply, demand, availability, and prices — environmental, and societal pressures, and technology issues, such as cost and effectiveness, that will determine the final outcome. Having said that, Vatican’s proactive approach will sway public opinion, which could be very significant.

(From ThinkProgress)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 17, 2015

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“5 things you can do about climate change” – CNN, 6 May 2014

We here at Phinix are huge proponents of doing what you can at home to prevent any further impacts of climate change. The disastrous effects of global warming are stacking up, leading to higher temperatures and rising sea levels. More flooding, wildfires, and droughts are to be expected. Here are five things you can do to lend a helping hand to the environment.

Become Informed

Staying informed about what policy makers are doing and saying is paramount. If you stay educated on climate change, then you can make knowledgeable decisions when voting and electing politicians into office. It also wouldn’t hurt to know what the policy makers are discussing:

  • Lowering carbon dioxide levels—for example, establishing carbon taxes and carbon caps;
  • Changing the Earth’s response to the effects of climate change—for example, building seawalls to combat the rising sea levels; and
  • Adapting the Earth to counteract climate change—for example, changing our oceans to absorb more CO2.

Make Changes at Home

The EPA suggests you do the following to curb your greenhouse gas emissions, which will also save you money:

  • Change your five most-used light bulbs to products that have the EPA’s Energy Star label;
  • Heat and cool more efficiently, such as by using a programmable thermostat, changing air filters, and replacing old equipment with Energy Star products;
  • Seal and insulate your home;
  • Make use of recycling programs, and compost food and yard waste;
  • Reduce water waste;
  • Use green power, such as solar panels; and
  • Estimate how much greenhouse gas you emit with the EPA’s calculator.

Be Greener at the Office

You can also help out at the office. Here’s how:

  • Set computers and other office equipment to power down during periods when you’re not using them;
  • Use Energy Star equipment; and
  • Recycle and reuse whenever possible.

Reduce Emissions in Transit

You can reduce your emissions both in your daily and cross-country commutes:

  • Rely on public transportation, biking, walking, carpooling, or telecommuting instead of driving;
  • Use the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide to help you make an informed choice about buying a car;
  • While driving, try to avoid hard accelerations, don’t spend more than 30 seconds idling, and go easy on the gas pedal and brakes; and
  • Make sure to regularly check your tire pressure.

When you’re traveling by plane, try these tricks:

  • Consider packing lighter because less fuel is consumed with less weight on the plane;
  • Fly during the day because night flights have a bigger impact on the climate; and
  • Buy carbon credits to compensate for the emissions on your flight.

Get Involved and Educate Others About the Bigger Picture

Though one person’s efforts might only have a small influence, involving and educating others will allow our impact to grow. Together, we can help to prevent any further damaging effects of climate change.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

May 13, 2014

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“U.N. Climate Panel Endorses Ceiling on Global Emissions” – New York Times, 27 September 2013

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change met last Friday in Stockholm, Sweden to discuss the current state of global climate change. Presenting information from the UN’s assessment of climate science, the panel unanimously agreed, for the first time, on an upper limit for greenhouse gases (GHG), advocating for a specific emissions cap that the world must adhere to, before climactic changes become permanent.

The UN’s assessment affirmed the idea that our changing climate is caused by human activities, reinforcing the need for a global environmental policy. The panel noted that if nothing is done to reduce emissions, then we will exceed our emissions cap in just a few decades. Unfortunately, any recent action taken towards enacting a global environmental policy has been bogged down by political conflicts.

The report states, “Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes.”

The panel also supports a “carbon budget” for the world, or a limit on how much GHG — the main GHG is carbon dioxide — can be expelled into the atmosphere by industrial activities and deforestation. Scientists have found that if the planet’s temperature were to increase by more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, then we would begin to see the most detrimental effects of climate change; if we want to keep the planet’s temperature below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, then we cannot burn more than one trillion metric tons of carbon.

According to the UN’s report, more than a half-trillion tons of carbon have been burned since the start of the Industrial Revolution, and as energy consumption continues to increase, we will likely reach the trillionth ton around 2040. Over three trillion tons of carbon are still kept in the ground as fossil fuels.

Just this month, Obama passed an executive order, in conjunction with the EPA, which regulates the amount of carbon that US power companies can emit, making “carbon capture” technology a requirement. The panel recommended that the same technology should be done for other companies around the world, especially once we pass the trillion-ton mark.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meets every five to six years — the last time they met was in 2007. The 2013 report presents a 95-100 percent probability that climate change is human-caused; the 2007 report presented a 90-100 percent probability.

The new report accedes to the fact climate science is not a perfect science; we are still uncertain, for instance, of the progression of rising ocean levels, and of how much the planet will actually warm when a certain amount of emissions is released. The report also acknowledges the gradual decrease of warming that has happened over the last 15 years, reasoning that it is probably due to the natural variability of climate. Both are favorite points of climate doubters; and despite the climate doubters’ valid claims, the only way to lessen the effects of climate change is to place a global cap on emissions.

The societal risk and cost of inaction is unaffordable.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 30, 2013

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“China Weighs Environmental Costs” – Wall Street Journal, 23 July 2013

China’s growing economy has had a severely negative impact on its environment. As a tactic to reverse the threats of climate change, the Chinese Government announced it would “name and shame” China’s worst cities and factories into publicly revealing their environmental standards. The government has also set a goal of curbing emissions in major industries by 30% by the end of 2017.

China’s pollution has taken its toll on its citizens: this month, a new study revealed that air pollution from coal combustion has decreased life expectancy by over five years in various areas of the country. Previously in 2013, a harsh smog over China and stocks of rice — contaminated with the toxin cadmium — produced public outrage.

The Chinese government has been met with much opposition, namely from local governments, which will make it even that more difficult to implement and carry out new environmental policy; many local governments work on a system that remunerates officials solely based on economic performance. Beijing will be the first city to promote local officials on both economic and environmental accomplishments.

China has pledged to control its energy intensity — energy used per unit of economic output — there is little chance that we will see a direct descent in emissions. Just recently, China and the US both decided to scale back on a particular type of greenhouse gas; but China retorted that developed countries must set an example by successfully limiting carbon emissions.

For the last few years, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has calculated the country’s “green GDP”, as a means to estimate the unseen costs of its environmental indifference. The ministry’s study discovered that in 2010, the cost of pollution was almost 1.5 trillion yuan, or $250 billion, or 3.5% of 2010′s GDP; in 2004, the cost was 511.8 billion yuan, 3.1% of China’s GDP that year.

Climate change is a global issue. China is now the second-largest global economy and the largest emitter of GHG. Fortunately, China is slowing down, and steadily examining and balancing conflicting goals and resultant policies between short-term economic pressures and long-term environmental considerations.

With global economic slowdown, it will be politically and economically difficult, if not impossible, for developed countries to act unilaterally, unless developing countries — such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and newly added South Africa (BRICS) — do their part.

To compound and complicate this situation even further, an education program must be initiated to “convert” a large population of “climate change deniers” in many countries, including the US.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

July 31, 2013

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